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Essays

The Reader's Bloch

Stefan Dziemianowicz

It's no secret that a hefty helping of Robert Bloch's fiction remains unreprinted or uncollected since it's original publication in pulp magazines, digests and anthologies of original stories. What many readers don't know is how good much of this fiction is. These stories run the full gamut of genres for which Bloch wrote -- fantasy, horror, science fiction, mystery -- and all showcase Bloch's inimitable style. We can't presume to know why Bloch never collected them in his lifetime, even though he sanctioned the reprinting of some in anthologies. Possibly, he felt they didn't fit the scheme of specific books. Regardless, the stories provide interesting snapshots of Bloch's career at the time they were written, and the evolution of story markets where they appeared.

Subterranean Press' The Reader's Bloch series was conceived to give these stories a well-deserved nesting place. It is currently planned to run to two, possibly three volumes, containing approximately fifty stories spanning Bloch's career from the late 1930s to the early 1990s. The series will stand independent of The Lost Bloch series, which concentrated primarily on novella and short-novel length works, but readers who enjoyed those volumes will find the same fun and thrills in these books. Currently, we've planned a volume devoted primarily to science fiction, and another primarily to horror. When you're talking Robert Bloch, however, genre categories have little meaning. Several of the science fiction stories Bloch contributed to Amazing, Startling Stories, Fantastic Adventures and other pulps would have fit comfortably into any of his horror collections. Likewise some of crime stories he contributed to Dime Mystery, Detective Tales and Mammoth Mystery. Most of the latter were never reprinted, and more's the pity since they show Bloch mastering the hardboiled idiom and dealing with ghoulish themes that chart a line of direct descent from his early horror tales to the psychological suspense novels and stories that became his trademark in the 1950s and '60s.

No, we don't plan to include any of the Lefty Feep stories from Fantastic Adventures, but we do have a few surprises up our sleeve, including at least one overlooked story that might be called the bookend to Bloch's Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos stories. And we have a bounty of fantasy and science fiction satires that rank with Bloch's wittiest fiction and essays. In all, the series will offer readers a generous helping of Bloch's writing from his most active and imaginative years.

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This essay is 2004 by Stefan Dziemianowicz and is reprinted here with his permission.